Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - Pizza Pizza!

I read blogs at work.

I am one of the fortunate few who have a job which, while making the day pass at an alarming rate, still leaves me plenty of time to do absolutely nothing.

So, on an idle Wednesday morning, when I came in to take my morning glance at the RSS Feed after I poured my coffee, I found it more than a little ironic that the first of my Daring Baker’s challenges would be none other than Pizza Dough.


I have made, in my rather short life, hundreds of pizza crusts from dozens of recipes (and, most recently the “a non specific amount of warm water, some yeast until it looks like the right amount of yeast, a little sugar, a little oil and flour until it’s pizza dough” method.)

I suspect switching from our improvisational, we’ve-done-this-a-million-times-and-don’t-need-no-stinkin’-recipe method would have been difficult were it not for the fact that this pizza dough requires an over-night session in the fridge, putting all of that would-be-whining a little behind the times when it was unveiled on Friday evening.

Where toppings and sauce are concerned, we’re a hard sell around here. TheBoy likes a regular red sauce – from…a jar – mozz, pepperoni and sausage. No more, no less. And to boot – you aren’t even allowed to cook the pizza through. Just long enough for the cheese to melt and out of the oven it comes. Occasionally, the crust is so under cooked that it falls through the grates of the cooling rack and has to be poured onto the cutting board. My mother likes her pizza with a little bit of everything - olive oil instead of sauce, garlic under the cheese, mozz, basil, sausage and pepperoni. When it comes out of the oven, cooked until it’s crispy thin crust is crackery, my father devours a few pieces, someone rolls me a crust and by the time my classic olive oil, garlic, artichoke heart, feta and mozz with the occasional green olive combo is on the cooling rack, the garlic from my Mother’s pizza has made my Father ill and it’s on to me to pry my younger brother and his girlfriend apart long enough to make their own pizza. Usually replete with too much sauce and not enough cook time. No one eats it until two days later when the leftovers have had the opportunity to solidify a little in the fridge and it can be grabbed on the way out the door. At that point, someone either rolls the remaining crust out, spreads it with olive oil and garlic…a little salt, a little pepper a few herbs from the garden and into the oven it goes to make some yummy crackers or TheBoy prevails and cons one of us into shaping breadsticks which he will munch on for days with the same jar of red sauce.

I’ve tried, in the past, to break this little routine of ours. I’ve made buffalo chicken bites and provided blue cheese. They devoured them in hand. I’ve tried ham and pineapple. The were ignored and the pineapple was thrown away because I’m allergic to it. I’ve implored people with pepperoncinis and occasionally prevailed but, in the end, we all have our loves and no one really wants to branch out on their pizza because that is the pizza they’ve been looking forward to for two weeks and, after stealing a little bit of everyone’s, you’re too full by the end of the night for experimentation.

I didn't make many changes to the recipe. I did add the flour by feel, rather than by the called for amount, because it's been a little damp around here lately and I consider that good math. :P Other than that, I went for broke with active dry yeast rather than instant. (I can't keep TWO giant bags of yeast in my freezer.)

As for the process - it's strange, as much pizza as I make, I haven't made pizza by hand, without the crutch of the mixer, in for-ever. So, today, I went old school - a bowl and a spoon and the butcher block. This dough - majorly sticky, which is fun in it's own way. And I'm sure TheBoy will love cleaning it up off of the board and out of the bowl just as much tomorrow as i enjoyed kneading it. (And no, my hands didn't really stay that clean while I was kneading. TheBoy made himself available to take pictures just after I washed my hands to get the board knife and cut it into dough balls.

So, for now, the step one phase is done and the dough is in the fridge on Thursday night....(And also, world bread day! Pizza is kind of bread? Right... Come on!)

To Be Continued.....

And the answers, they are here :) This pizza crust was renowned in our house - it's definitely on the rotation :)

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled -
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.


Ruth said...

Your tossing videos are great!

Mary said...

I love that you have the whole family tossing the pizzas! The videos are hillarious! (And I think everyone threw better than I did!)

Lynn said...

Well, I know how you feel. When I saw it was pizza for the challenge, I was a tad disappointed, because I have been making pizzas for year. Still, I did the challenge and made two new toppings. I think your pizzas look fabulous and I love everyone giving the toss a try. Well done!

Eat4Fun said...

Congrats on completing your first DB Challenge! Very cool that you got the family tossing the dough... All on video! You all did a great job!